Deborah L. Jacobs
Friday’s jobs report caused the markets to surge. The August unemployment report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that job growth continued in July with 163,000 jobs added to nonfarm payrolls. Still, with the unemployment rate essentially unchanged at 8.3%, many mature workers worry that their age will work against them in a job search.
In fact, their years of experience can be a huge asset to future employers. Some new jobs data suggests that older workers are actually in demand. A recent Challenger, Gray & Christmas study shows that of the 4.3 million jobs created in the past three years, nearly 3 million have gone to people over the age of 55.
Older workers can improve their success rate by focusing on the value of their experience. Here are steps you can take to make age an asset.
1. Network across all platforms. Harness the power of your personal, community, and business network. Mature workers have the advantage of a developed network, both online–for example, through LinkedIn–and offline. Think about your connections and who can potentially refer you for an open position. If your application is marked as a referral, it triples your chances of securing an interview.
Don’t procrastinate when you find out about job openings. StartWire research shows that 50% of successful new hires applied within the first week of a job being posted; 75% applied in the first three weeks. If you find out about a job opening from a contact, send in your application immediately and have the contact mark it as a referral. (See “How to Grow Your Network Without Really Trying.”)
2. Focus on relevant, recent experience. There is no need to list on your resume every position you have held since you entered the workforce. That will put the spotlight on your age, rather than your talent. Instead, focus on work experience that shows you have the skills needed for the job you are targeting. If you can’t make that connection, in your description of a past position, consider downplaying or removing it from your resume.
3. Find employers who will value your know-how. Many employers seek out older workers. Far from being a blemish, your age will put your resume on top of the pile. Financial services firms, for example, have a primarily older client base. To best reflect their clientele, they often prefer older employees.
Other companies, constrained by the current economy, do not have the time or resources to extensively train new hires. They want to bring someone in who can sit down and produce work on day one. This is a growing trend across multiple industries. And don’t overlook startups and non-profits. (See FORBES contributor Kerry Hannon’s post, “Nonprofits Are Hiring–But What Does This Job Pay?”)
4. Don’t ignore glaring resume gaps. While you shouldn’t list every experience held, try to fill in recent resume gaps when possible. Employers will wonder what you were doing, and in the absence of information could assume the worst. If you were forced to take time off to care for a loved one, it is okay to put “caregiver” in place of a gap. If you’ve filled time with volunteer work, include that detail. It’s a bonus if you’ve honed skills while volunteering, so feel free to mention it very briefly. (See too, “What To Say On LinkedIn When You’ve Been Laid Off.”)
Tips 5 - 7 and complete Forbes article